How long have you been a minister? I started my ministerial career over 40 years ago.
Who mentored you? Initially, my late father-in-law, Bill Johnson, who was a pastor for many years. He mentored during the time that I felt called to the ministry and in my early days as a pastor. My long-time mentor is Bill Burch, who was the superintendent of the Arizona District (now superintendent emeritus) when we first came here to pastor.
Best thing about being a pastor? Bonding with people, walking with them on their spiritual journeys, and seeing them grow spiritually.
Best thing about being a district superintendent? Setting vision and direction for the district and helping the district grow spiritually and numerically. I love equipping and resourcing pastors. To me, the local church is “the Church.” Our task is to equip pastors and laity to be effective as believers and to impact their communities.
How does the district connect to the larger Nazarene family? People on the Arizona District are seeing the value of being a part of something bigger than we are. We are redeveloping the team spirit within our local churches, on our district, and within the denomination. Family. Team. Connection.
Please share some examples of churches that are impacting their communities.
Casa Grande New Beginnings: Their pastor, Jerry Leastman, is gifted in compassionate ministries. They collect food from the grocery stores and food distribution companies with three semi-trucks and 20 trailers. Then, they distribute the food to our network of Nazarene churches and volunteers across Arizona.
Recipients include churches who share with low-income families, the homeless, senior adults, and Native Americans on reservations. Each distribution point has a prayer team whose members pray with recipients and provide Bibles, in multiple languages. Sometimes outdoor services are conducted at these distribution points.
Payson: Richard Richey is the pastor. This church turned a vacant portion of its land into a community garden. Businesses provided soil, fertilizer, tools, and irrigation equipment.
The church stipulates that anyone may have a garden plot (there are 200 plots), but those gardeners must give 20 percent of their crops to the local food bank.
Richard about a mother and daughter from the community who were estranged. They reconnected at the community garden as first the mother, then the daughter, started working on their individual plots. Although they had not seen each other in years, they reunited, and the mother—now a grandmother—was able to meet and build relationships with her daughter and the daughter’s children, whom she had never met.
A man whose wife had died several years earlier met a woman as the two worked on their garden plots. They became a couple and were married at the garden.
Pastor Richey estimates that the Payson church, through the garden, provides meals to about 400 families a month with the Casa Grande New Beginnings food ministry. He also says that the garden has helped make the church known in their community.
Phoenix Renovation Church: Curt Gentry pastors this church. He is a gifted, passionate leader and evangelistic in his approach. He is a high-commitment, high-expectation leader who focuses on the need to influence those around us.
Gen Groups (generation groups) are flourishing here. Generations within the church come together in these groups for Bible studies, mentoring, learning, fellowship, and intentional discipleship. They are developing sports programs for children and teens in the surrounding community. Also, they are intentionally seeking to be good neighbors. For example, they throw block parties on the lawn, inviting their church neighbors to picnics and building relationships in the process.
Doug Pierce is superintendent of the Arizona District. He and his wife, Becky, have two adult children: Curtis (Jessica), and Nikki. Curtis and Jessica are parents to the Pierces’ granddaughter, Ruby, named after Doug’s grandmother.